One of the great leadership lessons is found in the life of Cyrus. He was a brilliant military strategist, and was skilled in the art of relationships. What made him so unique is that once an enemy was conquered, he built relationships and alliances with them that created indebtedness to his leadership and the prosperity that he shared with those deserving. (Xenophon)
When Cyrus was a young man, he received training in the art of being a military general. Upon completion, he asked his father for the funds to pay his professor.
His father asked, “Did this teacher you want to pay ever mention economy among the things a general ought to understand? Soldiers, no less than servants in a house are dependent on supplies.”
“No”, Cyrus responded
“Had anything been taught about health and strength? Since a true general is bound to think of these matters no less than of tactics and strategy”
“No” Cyrus repeated
“Had he taught any of the arts which give the best aid in war?”
“Had he taught how to kindle enthusiasm in men? For in every undertaking, there was all the difference in the world between energy and lack of spirit”
When it was plain that even this had been ignored, “What in the world, then, does your professor claim to have taught you under the name of generalship?”
To this Cyrus could finally give a positive answer, “He taught me tactics”
“Pray what will be the use of tactics to an army without supplies, without health, without discipline, without knowledge of those arts and inventions that are of the use of war?”
Little has changed in the last 2400 years. We are still seduced into buying management and end up with techniques and tactics. In today’s changing world, we must be continual learners, but we will not develop from the management texts that are being sold.
Peter Drucker said, “Managers draw upon all of the knowledges and insights of the humanities and social sciences on psychology and philosophy, on economics and history, on the physical sciences and ethics. But they have to focus this knowledge on effectiveness and results.” His knowledge of history, sociology, philosophy, art was incredible and he always used this to improve management science.
Jim Collins wrote that executives should read far fewer management books. He has a fascinating list of suggested reading, which includes reading history, science, anthropology, psychology, sociology or the arts. It is in these disciplines and others that you will understand the principles of running an organization.
I learned a great deal about discipline from Ignatius, and was forced to think more broadly by Kierkegard. I have much to learn about how the Apostle Paul participated in the development of a movement that changed the western world; or how the Federalist papers were a blue print for decentralization. I look at the effect of relativism in philosophy and how it is changing society. I don’t believe that Adam Smith knew when he wrote “Invisible Hand of the Market” that Darwin would use it in developing evolutionary concepts. As I wrote about in Think Like an Artist, my best ideas come from outside the narrow gaze of what might be the presenting issues for an individual organization.
Your ability to manage and develop your organization requires much greater understanding than what the business books can offer, if you just look more closely. Take those ideas and disciplines and mash them into your current situation, you will see things differently. It may not bring an immediate ROI, but it will make you more interesting and more interested in what may actually be happening with you and around you.